What other newspapers are saying: Assess state recycling performance

Pennsylvania led the nation in 1988 when it adopted a progressive new law that vastly accelerated waste recycling, and there is little doubt that the law has kept millions of tons of reusable materials out of landfills.

But 34 years later, a study by the nonprofit Pennsylvania Resources Council raises the valid question of whether the law has met its four main goals.

The law called for reducing the overall waste stream by 25% through recycling by 1997. The study couldn’t determine if the state has achieved that because the state does not calculate the rate.

The most important missed goal is the failure to produce products made from recycled material, which ultimately determines how much waste is recycled. Even if materials can be recycled, they end up in a landfill if there is no market to make them valuable.

It is clear that the law did not achieve its goal to reduce the weight and volume of waste generated per person. Waste generation has grown in Pennsylvania each year since the law passed.

The fourth goal is to increase recycling awareness and education, which must be considered a success. In many ways, recycling is second nature to millions of Pennsylvanians — even when they have no way to know if the materials that they attempt to recycle end up in new products or in a landfill.

The state government itself has a mixed record on recycling. It promotes the practice and helps to fund recycling programs, but state agencies themselves don’t necessarily emphasize recycled products when they buy materials.

Even though the Legislature did not renew a benighted law that had prevented local governments from enacting bans on single-use plastic bags, it struck a major blow against recycling in its zeal to do the natural gas industry’s bidding. It enacted an unprecedented $1.7 billion tax credit for construction of a chemical refinery in Beaver County that will produce plastic from natural gas byproducts, much of which will be used to produce single-use plastic bags.

The Legislature should embrace the new report, launch a comprehensive examination of recycling and adjust the law to make it more comprehensive and efficient.

— Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre


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